Letter from Board of Education members Peter D. Bernstein (Chair) and Kathleen Stowe (Vice Chair)
As our school year officially ends, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past few months. While this certainly was not a typical spring and conclusion to a school year, our students, our school leaders, and staff were inspiring with their attitude and flexibility.
As leaders of the Board of Education, we would like to mark the moment by thanking our entire community for the tremendous partnership and support of the last few months in an unprecedented time.
Greenwich has experienced the human tragedy of the COVID pandemic, the disruption of an unprecedented quarantine and the uncertainty of the related economic downturn. This was a time of tremendous stress for our students, families and staff.
The months out of school and distance learning was not easy or always smooth but we’ve made tremendous strides together. Our staff worked to ensure the logistics of the operation from lesson plans and student engagement to technology challenges and distributing lunches. Parents and guardians have provided a tremendous amount of support, guidance and assistance.
Simultaneously, we worked through our annual budgeting exercise, understanding that changes needed to be made given all going on in the world around us.
While we hoped for a more collaborative approach, the budget process over the past few months created a lot of stress and tension for many. Being able to land where we did is certainly the right result – while we made reductions to our budget, we are spared from deep cuts that would have included the further loss of staff and programs.
That we are able to do so is a testament to our team and savings from COVID related closures. Those savings enable us to better position our schools for re-opening. The Board and administration working collaboratively is the only reason we were able to reach this point.
We should not forget that a mere two months ago we were requesting $1.2 million to close a shortfall in our budget mostly due to special education out of district tuition and settlements and we expect to be in a similar position next year. On top of that there will likely be costs associated with the return to school in the time of COVID. The budget process will soon start again for the for 2021-2022 school year, the financial pressure will continue to increase, and we continue to hope for a reasonable and collaborative approach going forward.
Throughout this process we learned a great deal about how the community values our public education and for that we are thankful. We saw the best of our community coming together to face the ups and downs of school closures and distance learning and we will take those lessons and improve upon them this summer into our hopeful return to schools in the fall.
Thank you to all of our students for continuing to show us their best effort, whether from the classroom or the couch. Thank you to our teachers and staff. Thank you to our GPS families for supporting their children while they manage so much else in these trying times. Thank you to our Superintendent, Dr. Toni Jones and Sean O’Keefe, our Chief Operating Officer, for their strong leadership and creative and thoughtful approach to managing the budget. Finally, thank you to everyone in the community and those members of the BET and RTM who spoke up to support our students and our schools in recent weeks.
To our graduating class, congratulations and best wishes as you move onto the next phase of your lives. In this time of national dialogue and social change, we are reminded of Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Go forth and do so.
Board of Education members Peter D. Bernstein (Chair) and Kathleen Stowe (Vice Chair)